Everything tastes better when it is cooked over a campfire. It is a truth universally acknowledged. That’s why Dinty Moore Beef Stew tastes like nectar after a long hike. That’s why those extra crispy bits of charred marshmallow are savory and delectable, the stuff of summer memories. There is more to cooking over a campfire than s’mores, but they are the beginning. There is panoply of meals that can be prepared over an open flame – it is your decision whether to take them on the camping trail, or stay in your own back yard.
Preparing your own food as a child is thrilling. It’s nighttime, and you are in the backyard. You’re allowed to play with fire. You’re encouraged to jab with sharp sticks or sharper skewers. You’re in charge. It is the beginning of your journey toward epicurean independence, and the stakes start low – with marshmallows.
There are distinct stages of marshmallow appreciation. It might take all summer for all the lessons to add up; acquiring knowledge and experience can be slow and measured. First: gobble up some raw marshmallows, right out of the bag. They are cold and powdery, with a delightful give as you bite, leaving tooth marks in the plump, yielding sponginess. After skewering a marshmallow, or two, or three, you learn how to delicately twirl and rotate the marshmallow a few inches above the open flame, lightly browning the exterior. You are perfecting your technique while you watch the marshmallows cooking in the hot gasses emitted by the dancing flames. You are learning science and compromise, because, undoubtedly, you are sharing this fire with a sibling. Diplomacy becomes important – which color flame produces the best marshmallow, and where is it in the campfire? Is it possible to share? Compromise or dominate?
After settling back on your camp stool, it is time for another taste test. Hmmmm. There is now a caramelized crisp surface, yielding a warm, runny center. With trial and error you are becoming a judicious connoisseur. Next, smug and secure with your new skill set, throwing caution to the winds in your sugar rush, you allow the marshmallows to catch fire, watching the blue flame engulf the surface: crisping, caramelizing, scorching, blackening, and incinerating before you blow it out. (Remember those lava-lamp marshmallows you weren’t fast enough to salvage? How they bowed and sagged and dripped off the skewer into the grass?) Delicately nibbling the remnants of the next batch, you have discovered that there can be too much of a muchness, and some restraint is necessary in life, and in marshmallows. This is a valuable cooking lesson.
A few how tos: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%27more
Sadly, there are s’mores kits available for the folks who require such things. They are expensive and fussy. The Spy has higher expectations. Remain true to the classic s’mores: https://food52.com/shop/products/2069-diy-s-mores-kit-set-of-2?
Although this sounds intriguing:
And soon it will be time to advance to hot dogs.
“The echoes of beauty you’ve seen transpire,
Resound through dying coals of a campfire.”